How to teach your friends, relatives and neighbors about your Aspergers child’s behaviors

The general public, including your relatives, friends, and neighbors, do not know what Aspergers Syndrome is, or how to understand their behavior or deal with it. General awareness about autism is growing but in my own experience when you talk to a lot of people about Aspergers – you get a lot of completely blank looks! It’s up to you to teach them about Aspergers. Give them as much information as you can, relative to how much information they are willing to receive. Bombarding them with information they aren’t ready to receive will only frustrate them and make them less willing to listen. An excellent starting point can be a basic fact sheet about Aspergers, which you can find for free on the internet. A couple of examples of these can be found at:

http://ucf-card.org/factsheet/FS5English.pdf

http://www.nas.org.uk/nas/jsp/polopoly.jsp?d=212

If you are going to explain this to someone who is not hugely significant to the family then a fact sheet may do it. But if it is someone closer then you may want to think about printing off the fact sheet and annotating a few points on it. So for instance where the fact sheet may say “Aspergers children struggle with social interaction” you can add for instance: “when Jonny first went to school he took to running off when people spoke to him but when the teacher began to communicate in short sentences alone with Jonny in a smaller room this began to improve”. Personalizing the fact sheet with a story of some kind can really help another person to understand and relate better to Aspergers. The most committed person could get bored reading too much of a “dry” fact sheet. But with a little story and human touch in there it will more likely bring the explanation alive. Because if you think about it we all love to listen and read stories – and this is one of the ways we all learn every day.

Meanwhile, continue to provide for your child in the manner that is best for them, increasing every opportunity to treat them as a “normal” child. The more you can demonstrate normative behavior for the rest of your family, the more likely they are to treat your Aspergers child as a “normal” child. This is again a very basic way that all humans learn; by observing and modelling “expert” behaviour. And in this instance you should view yourself as the Aspergers expert (and in my opinion as a parent living every day with your Aspergers child you definitely are the expert). If your friends, neighbors, or relatives, are witness to one of your child’s bad days, explain why it was a bad day for them and what can be done to lessen those days. Don’t be ashamed of your child or their syndrome. It isn’t your fault that they have this syndrome and it isn’t their fault. It just is. As I am sure you know, your child has a huge number of great qualities about them just like any child. And sometimes people need help to see beyond certain behaviors and a diagnosis of Aspergers – to see the real person beyond.

So what I have tried to explain in this brief article is the important role you have in helping those around you to understand Aspergers. Honest discussion, basic fact sheets (preferably personalized about your child) and allowing others to observe your parenting skills are the keys to this situation.